Published in the July 26, 2017 edition
By DAN TOMASELLO
LYNNFIELD — Birthdays are a time to celebrate the past and look forward to the future. The Lynnfield Public Library is no exception to the rule.
The library celebrated its 125th birthday in style on July 22 in an informal event held at the Meeting House. Over two dozen residents and library officials attended the birthday celebration.
The birthday bash began with the Blue Notes, a smaller group of the R&R 2000 band, kicking off the festivities with several musical numbers. After the performance, Library Director Holly Mercer welcomed guests to the party.
“Thank you for helping us celebrate the library’s 125th birthday,” said Mercer. “We are so happy you are here to celebrate with us.”
Board of Library Trustees Chairman Bob Calamari also welcomed attendees to the birthday party.
“This is a kickoff for a big year of activity here,” said Calamari. “Today is about celebrating our past.”
Calamari gave a brief history lesson about the library.
“There have been many, many milestones for this institution that we all know and love,” said Calamari.
Calamari noted the library first opened in the old Town Hall on July 22, 1892.
“We opened with 554 books,” Calamari recalled. “Elizabeth Green, which I believe the Green Room is named after, was our first head librarian.”
In 1904, Calamari said the library outgrew its Town Hall location and moved into the old Central School building, which he said is “one of the parts of our current facility right by the Common.”
“It represents the Children’s Room today,” said Calamari.
In the aftermath of the “post World War II boom,” Calamari said a 700 sq. ft. addition was built in 1959.
“We quickly outgrew it,” said Calamari. “It represents today’s entry foyer. Also in 1959, our Friends of the Lynnfield Library group was formed. It was a really big deal because it helped mobilize all of our volunteer activities. They have been an indispensable part of our growth over time.”
Calamari said the library’s front porch and reading room were constructed in 1967.
“It represents the configuration of the building today,” said Calamari.
Calamari said the local history and genealogy section of the library was established in 1974.
“It’s something very unique to our library,” said Calamari. “It would be one of the highlights we would maintain as we hopefully move into a new building.”
Calamari said the North of Boston Library Exchange (NOBLE) Network was established in 1981.
“Lynnfield became the first library in Massachusetts to link with another library by computer,” said Calamari. “We began by a digital computer linkage to the Peabody Library, and that was one of the things that triggered the formation of the NOBLE Network. It has been a boom for the library.”
Calamari said the library installed a computer for the public to use in 1985. He said the library was last renovated in 1992, which is when the handicap ramp and elevator were both installed. He also said the project entailed fixing the library’s roof and finishing the basement.
Calamari said the library first received Internet access in 1993 and the first website went live in 1998. In 2001, Calamari said the library implemented “24-hour electronic access.”
“People rely on that greatly now,” said Calamari.
Calamari said Wi-Fi was installed at the library in 2006. He said e-Books and e-Audiobooks were added to the library’s collection in 2010, which he said have become “very popular.”
According to Calamari, the library started providing services to the public 64 hours per week in 2012.
“We expanded our night hours and went to Saturday hours year round,” said Calamari.
Calamari said the library “kicked off its Library Foundation” this year.
“It’s very important in terms of developing an endowment for the library going forward,” said Calamari.
In closing, Calamari thanked residents and library officials for attending the 125th birthday celebration.
“I want to thank everybody for coming out today,” said Calamari. “All of you help make it go and it’s very important for our continued development as an institution. Stick with us because there is a lot of excitement going on.”
Over the past several years, Mercer said the Lynnfield Public Library’s programming has expanded significantly.
“We have grown tremendously over the years and we will continue to grow and offer services to the community,” said Mercer. “We are going to expand our collections and programming. Last year, we had over 11,000 people at our programs. It’s just amazing. We have an average of one-and-a-half programs per day, so it’s a phenomenal number. That has grown from 3,500.”
As part of an effort to expand the library’s programs, Mercer said the Board of Library Trustees voted to no longer have late fees for books. The library will continue having late fees for DVDs and video games.
“If your like me, those due dates sneak up a little fast,” said Mercer. “We want to make sure everyone has access and there is no hindrance to checking out material. We are very excited about it.”
Library Trustee Faith Honer-Coakley presented four paintings created by local librarian Nathalie Boussion Lilley. The paintings will be hung in the Children’s Room and will create a mural.
“She is a wonderful artist,” said Honer-Coakley. “What is depicted here is near and dear to my heart because my focus is always on things for the Children’s Room and what we can do for young readers.”
The first painting showcases Story Time, and illustrates two pandas reading.
“Story Time is one of the most important aspects of our children’s program and one of the most well attended,” said Honer-Coakley.
The second painting depicts a sheep checking out the library’s 3D printer.
“The items from the 3D printer are often used for prizes in the Children’s Room,” said Honer-Coakley. “Everybody is fascinated by it, including all of the adults who come into the library. We are moving ahead with our technology and using it to keep people excited about learning.”
The third painting showcases a “Playaway” and events that involve having popcorn at the library. A Playaway is a brand of portable media players designed for circulation in libraries.
“We try to create wonderful opportunities for kids to come in, enjoy different media and be together,” said Honer-Coakley.
The fourth painting depicts an owl librarian helping a rabbit do a homework assignment.
“At our library, there is always somebody to help you with your homework,” said Honer-Coakley. “That is really important for kids today. As an educator for 26 years, I love hearing about this component at the Lynnfield Library.”
Honer-Coakley thanked Lilley for creating the paintings. Lilley, who was not present at the birthday bash, was given a round of applause by the celebration’s attendees.
“She is so talented and is a wonderful person,” said Honer-Coakley. “We have great people in our library family.
Mercer concurred with Honer-Coakley’s point of view.
“(The paintings) are so cute,” said Mercer. “They really depict everything that we do at the library.”
Mercer said the library will be launching a series of programs as part of the 125th birthday celebration.
“We have programming lined up for later this fall, including a genealogy program,” said Mercer. “The foundation has started up and we are encouraging people to give increments of $125 to celebrate our 125th.”
Birthday cake and celebration
After Mercer concluded her remarks, the event’s attendees sang “Happy Birthday” to the library, accompanied by the Blue Notes.
Attendees also enjoyed some cake and danced to the band’s smooth tunes.
In an interview with the Villager, Mercer thanked residents for coming to the birthday celebration.
“It’s a fun and exciting time to celebrate the past, present and future of the library,” said Mercer. “I thank everyone for coming to help us celebrate.”